Saturday, July 12, 2008

Zen & The Beans / More on Distinction

[By special challenge question from a friend. Enjoy!]

Wikipedia reports that, today, there are over four-thousand cultivars of bean on record in the United States alone. In some way, each species is distinct, yet each has enough in common with the other to still be called a bean.

But is this really so remarkable? I wonder how many hundreds or thousands of cars pass through a busy toll plaza at the beginning and end of each day, each with a different driver, each one completely unique in his own circumstances... We make clear distinctions among ourselves initially on appearance alone. On social contact, we learn more of how we are the same and how we differ. On intimate contact, we learn more again. And all of this happens within one species.

And what of ideas and opinions? Faiths and religions? Likes and dislikes? Relationships? These things, like beans and like people, bloom naturally like flowers. Some thrive, and some whither. Some oppose one another, and some rely upon one another. Some are blessed and others suffer terrible hardship by circumstance alone. All in one moment, though, whether in harmonious interaction or violent opposition, simultaneously exist interdependently in this one world.

We can spend an eternity cataloging the differences between all that we can perceive. I, distinct from you and distinct from everything between us, can see how we are similar and how we are different---and undoubtedly this is important to how we live our days. But how much value is there really in this endeavor?

The ocean has its rhythm. Sit at the shore, listen, and watch. Stop time in your mind with an image of what you experience. How many individual waves do you see? Each wave you see and each wave that you do not see has a life of its own and a path. Two waves only a few feet apart may never on the surface meet. Another two may join for a while, traveling together, and then separate. Another two may join and travel to their crashing end at the shore. The waves are born from the ocean and they return to the ocean, continuing the cycle.

It is easy to say "that is the ocean" and "those are waves," but are they ever separate? Even those waves that are not close were always connected within the ocean through the energy and matter beneath.

Does anything differ with the bean plant? We can say that this is where the root ends and the rest of the earth begins, we can say that this is where the leaves end and the sky begins, and we can say that this thing from root to leaf and nothing else is something called "plant," but are these statements really true? Remove the root from the earth or the leaf from the sky---does a plant remain? As the plant grows, it itself builds itself from the earth with energy from the sky. When the plant withers and dies, it returns to the same. Was the bean plant ever separate from what is other than the bean plant?

And what of people? Does consciousness change what we are, where we are from, or to where we will return? That you and I can walk in two different directions, not rooted like a plant or mixed fluidly like the ocean, does this make us separate? Is our form not ultimately as fluid as water and are we not as integrally connected to our environment as the plant? Where does the thing called "person" begin and end?

So, how will you spend this time where ash and dust have come together for just a moment in the universe's time to hold your consciousness? What is worth knowing? What goals are worthwhile? What forms are worth preserving?

Know the meaning of "your body is a temple." Know what dwells within it, and see that it has no boundaries.

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